Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sen. Linda Lopez Responds to AZ Daily Star Budget Questions

This is published in today's Arizona Daily Star in response to a request to southern Arizona lawmakers to answer four questions about the budget. It is located online here and pasted below.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson

Committees: Education Accountability and Reform; Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform

Education

If we are truly concerned about Arizona's economic future, education at all levels cannot suffer further cuts. Education must be considered an investment. Without a quality educational system, economic development will continue to be stagnant and the state may lose some of the businesses that are currently here. Businesses look for more than just a favorable tax structure when relocating. Without access to an educated work force a low tax structure has little to no value.

Health care

I do not support cuts to health and human services or asking voters to change eligibility for Medicaid. I support a proposal to increase the provider tax paid by insurance companies. Funds generated could be used to pay for the expansion of Medicaid supported by Arizona's voters when they passed Proposition 204. With regards to serving non-Medicaid-eligible persons with serious mental illness and support for human services I advocate equalizing the tax on alcohol with those funds dedicated to behavioral-health services, prevention services and support for the child welfare system. Beer, wine, and spirituous liquor are taxed at different rates. An adjustment has not been made in well over 30 years. This equalization could generate about $500 million annually.

Budget cuts

This state needs comprehensive sentencing reform. We need to differentiate between offenders that we fear and those who've simply made us angry. Murderers, rapists, child molesters and others we're afraid of must be locked up to protect Arizonans. Drug offenders (not big-time dealers) and others who've violated the law but who do not scare us should be treated differently. Programs such as treatment and probation are much less expensive than incarceration and much more effective at getting these folks to be productive citizens. We should review the sentences of those currently incarcerated to determine if releasing them early to these types of programs would be a better use of scarce state resources. Other states have already implemented such changes.

The budgets of the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, the House of Representatives and the state Senate need to reviewed for diversion of some of their funding to other areas of state government that are much more critical. For example, the Senate Republican leadership spent over $60,000 remodeling the Republican caucus room and the Republican Appropriations Committee chair's office. That amount of money, while not huge in the scheme of things, could have been used to fund two Child Protective Services workers or some other equally important use.

We cannot reduce spending to the levels of 2004 or 2006 as this fails to recognize the increased demand on state government, i.e., more kids in schools, more people who need state help because of the economy, etc.

Revenues

In addition to the two revenue sources I suggested earlier I support expanding the sales tax to include services. Arizona's crisis demands swift, decisive action by legislators who are willing to put their own political future on the line for the sake of the future of this state!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sen. Paula Aboud Responds to Arizona Daily Star Request

This is published in today's Arizona Daily Star in response to a request to southern Arizona lawmakers to answer four questions about the budget. It is located online here and pasted below.

Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson
Committees: Appropriations Committee (ranking Democrat); Health Committee; Education Committee; Joint Legislative Budget Committee; Joint Committee for Capitol Review; Administrative Oversight Committee

Education

When a state's economy has debt, lawmakers either propose spending cuts, generating revenue or both. It's impossible to balance Arizona's deficit today without revenue. And legislators who propose balancing the budget as though programs were numbers on a spreadsheet with no sense of consequences for the whole state are just wrong.

Our universities, our economic engine, are being squeezed by cutting when the lawmakers themselves don't have a college education. Cuts to education hurt our work force development, and cuts to all-day kindergarten hurt early development of our future work force. It's like eating your seed corn. You cannot only look at the numbers . . . you must look at the cost to the public, to our future.

Health care

Cutting Medicare recipients doesn't just balance the spreadsheet. It cuts all the health-care infrastructure of the entire state that depends upon the Medicare reimbursements to stay in business - an infrastructure that maintains hospitals and employs doctors, nurses and technicians. The loss of $382 million really costs the state nearly $3 billion in matching funds and lost revenue. That cut alone could bankrupt rural hospitals, cost the state good-paying jobs, force more foreclosures, increase debt for banks, force rural families to travel three hours to Phoenix or Tucson for medical care. Simply put, the whole state would suffer.
Budget Cuts

By cutting Medicaid spending, the governor risks Arizona's ability to qualify for the extension of federal stimulus dollars. Uninsured kids and mentally ill will flood the ERs with their medical needs, forcing hospitals to shift the unreimbursed expense to you and me with higher premiums on our health care. That's called the hidden health-care tax.

Once the public understands the concept of tax shift, you'll understand why it's imprudent to make cuts in a vacuum. Arizona is already 50th in per-pupil spending. Our education achievement ranking went down last year from 43rd to 46th place. Who is going to want to live here or to move here?

Revenues

Revenue generation is critical to the health of our state. Let both sides of the aisle come together to make the state better, not tear it down further. The following revenue ideas have been suggested by the Democrats and they can help resolve the problem without ruining our state.
A utility excise tax can generate $233 million to $500 million, taxing out-of-state corporations. A hospital-provider tax could generate $600 million. Alcohol taxation, unchanged for decades, could generate up to $300 million. Private-prison fees could net $22 million. Suspending corporate and individual tax credits, money already owed to the state but diverted away, could generate $250 million. A QTR (Qualified Tax Rate) increase could bring in $600 million. Suspending a homeowner rebate could generate $414 million. Adding Department of Revenue auditors to collect owed taxes, charging taxes to out-of-state individuals and corporations doing business in Arizona, increasing charges for freight trucks passing through the state and eliminating tax breaks on ethanol, gasohol, country club membership and simulcast dog racing are just some of the proposals we've put on the table.

Many of these ideas move our state forward, won't over-tax the citizenry, and won't decimate state services or our education system.

In answer to the Star, I propose no new cuts to the state at this time. It's time all Arizona lawmakers sit down together to choose the future course for our state.

Slashing important programs merely to balance a spreadsheet is wrong. All of us working together is a better, healthier solution for Arizona's future.

Posted in Opinion on Friday, January 29, 2010 12:00 am

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Senate Democratic Leader Responds to AZ Star Request

This is published in today's Arizona Daily Star in response to a request to southern Arizona lawmakers to answer four questions about the budget. It is located online here and pasted below.


District 27
Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, D-Tucson

Garcia is the Senate Democratic leader. He is on the Government Institutions and Rules committees.

Education

K-12 education funding needs to be protected. Where are our priorities as a state if the first people attacked are children? Instead of working for Arizonans in their time of need, Governor Brewer and Republicans consistently reject the very programs many of them rely upon. Her budget proposes $400 million in cuts to education in addition to the loss of federal stimulus dollars. Instead, we can look at a temporary payment rollover, which will allow the state more time to recover from this financial crisis.

Health care

Cutting people off health care is wrongheaded. AHCCCS covers 1.3 million Arizonans who cannot afford health care on their own. Cutting back AHCCCS rolls and behavioral health services puts our state's health and welfare in jeopardy.

Leaving more people uninsured shifts costs to our businesses, results in poorer overall health and shorter life expectancy because people are less likely to seek preventative care if they have to make a choice between food and medical expenses.

The local impact of AHCCCS sustains jobs in the health-care industry and results in fewer missed days at school and work. I cannot imagine a situation where a poor health-care system is a quality that will drive businesses to Arizona by the masses.

Budget cuts

We know that very difficult budget cuts are necessary, yet we still contend that they need to be attached to a comprehensive budget plan that addresses revenue for the state's future. The Republican-led Legislature has continued to protect their Republican friends, such as the state treasurer and secretary of state, as they have not taken any budget cuts. Instead, they chose to dramatically cut the Attorney General's Office, which protects Arizonans against financial fraud and border crime. They also cut programs addressing child-abuse prevention and high-risk pregnancies.

Republicans commonly insist that new spending must be paid for with new revenues. The same approach should be adopted with tax cuts. The majority of the people who will be devastated by the governor's budget are children and the mentally ill while Republicans continue to schedule tax cuts. Speaker (Kirk) Adams' "job creation" plan amounts to $600 million in business tax cuts at the same time we are asking citizens to pay more taxes and pack children into classrooms and kick them off health care.

Revenue

The state deficit is so massive that it is necessary for us to look at different revenue options. I am supportive of a tax referral so that the voters can decide whether to tax themselves. We can start by expanding the sales-tax base. A broadening of the base to services makes the sales tax much more stable and further spreads the burden while adding a nominal amount to luxury services.

If income tax is a desired target, we can revise our graduated tax system, including up to a $20,000 exemption for a family of four. With effective tax rates from 1.5 percent to 4 percent, a family earning $50,000 or less receives a decrease in tax burden, while burdens on other income brackets remain relatively stable.

Arizona's revenue system is broken. It needs to be fixed, not further eroded. Democrats have always supported revenue reform, but sadly, all that Republicans are interested in are tax cuts.

Posted in Opinion on Thursday, January 28, 2010 12:00 am

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

District 29 Legislators Invite Public to Tucson Town Hall

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Linda Lopez, Rep. Matt Heinz and Rep. Daniel Patterson invite the public to a town hall on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Eckstrom-Columbus Library, 4350 E. 22nd Street, Tucson, Ariz. This is the fifth district 29 town hall in the past year.

Where: Eckstrom-Columbus Library, 4350 E. 22nd Street, Tucson, Ariz.
When: Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010 from 2 to 4 p.m.


“It is especially important to hear from constituents in this continued fiscal crisis," said Democratic Whip Sen. Linda Lopez. “Budget discussions are underway and we need to make sure their views are represented."

“Your input is very important to me and it will help me serve you and our community better,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29). “I look forward to our continued dialogue during these difficult times as we work to build a stronger and better future for Arizona.”

“I want to make sure southern Arizona voices are heard at the state legislature,” said Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29). “It is incredibly important that we hear your ideas to help get our state back on the right track.”
###
Additional Media Contacts:

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication
Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejeda@azleg.gov

Sarah Muench
Public Information Officer
Arizona State Legislature, House Democratic Caucus
(602) 926-5848
smuench@azleg.gov

Sen. Manny Alvarez Responds to Arizona Daily Star Questions

The Arizona Daily Star is running a series of Southern Arizona legislator responses to four budget questions. Here is Sen. Manny Alvarez's response published in today's edition.

District 25
Sen. Manuel V. Alvarez, D

Committees: Public Safety and Human Services (Ranking Democratic member); Veterans and Military Affairs (Ranking Democratic member); Government Institutions


Education

It is the state's duty to make sure the public education system works for our children. Cutting back on programs like all-day kindergarten only puts Arizona's children at a disadvantage when compared to other states and shifts costs to families who have already tightened their budgets. Educational surveys consistently place Arizona at or near the bottom of the charts for performance and funding. It is past time that we do something to change that. Cutting back on educational funding is not the way to make sure Arizona's children can compete for high paying jobs once they go into the work force.


Health care

In Arizona, 1.3 million people are served by AHCCCS, the state Medicaid program. These are working families living at the federal poverty limit, with many being children. The governor's proposal would eliminate coverage for 300,000 or more from AHCCCS, 47,000 children from KidsCare and 17,000 from mental-health coverage. This is not only a cut to people at the worst time in the state's economic history, but it is a cost shift to community health-care providers. For each dollar cut from AHCCCS, the state also loses two more dollars from federal matching funds, so we actually lose much more.

Additionally, cutting hundreds of thousands of people from health care will mean that people will defer medical care until they are very ill and then go to the emergency room as a last resort. This practice is unhealthy for the individual and community and a very expensive cost that is not recouped by community health-care providers that are already strained.

Budget cuts

Mathematically, there is zero way to cut ourselves out of this budget deficit. The majority of the state budget goes to education, corrections and health care. At this point, many smaller state departments are working with bare-bones budgets - the same agencies we depend on to help protect us from consumer fraud. The state has lost over 4,000 jobs over the past two years from layoffs and a hiring freeze, which is 10 percent of the work force. We have lost even more in the private sector as a result of lost contracts.

While I am happy that the governor intends to use $10 million of federal stimulus for job training, it is only a temporary fix.

Republican budgets have already made permanent cuts to the Department of Commerce - the agency that runs job training. That means that when the stimulus dollars run out, there will be a permanent gap in funding for these programs.

Revenue

The state needs to look at additional revenue, but I believe that the voters need to decide for themselves whether to increase that revenue. The proposals we have seen so far only tie Arizona to future tax cuts. Democrats are not against tax cuts and incentives for companies to bring high paying jobs, but we cannot pre-plan tax cuts when we are not even certain when Arizona will fully recover from the current downturn.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sen. Hale introduces SB 1164, a bill to regulate the use of Native American practices

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Today, Sen. Albert Hale will introduce a bill to regulate the use of traditional Native American practices off of Indian Nation lands.

“We need to make certain that proper procedures are followed and safety precautions are taken when our traditional Native American practices are used off of Indian Nation lands and done without authority of Indian Nations,” said Sen. Albert Hale. “Regulations are necessary to help prevent the public from paying for a service that may not in fact be a Native American traditional practice but advertised as one as it is important to protect the safety and health of participants who may have no knowledge of these practices.”

The bill requires the Arizona Department of Health Services, in consultation with the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs, to adopt rules for the regulation of any individual or business that charges people to participate in what the individual or business claims are traditional and authentic Native American practices. It would not apply to those practices occurring on tribal lands and with the authorization of a tribal jurisdiction’s governing board.

Press conference speakers pictured: Sen. Albert Hale (at podium), President Joe Shirley, Jr. (far right)
(Photo: Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Arizona Senate)

Sen. Hale introduces bill to regulate the use of Native American practices

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Sen. Albert Hale will present a bill that will address the regulation of practices that are claimed to be traditional and authentic Native American practices.

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 19. 2010
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Location: Senate Lawn, Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, Ariz.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Statement from Assistant Democratic Leader Sen. Rebecca Rios on Governor’s Budget

“The governor’s budget continues to take Arizona down the wrong path. We hope that in the coming days Arizonans will see that this budget is completely unworkable and only cause more damage to our already ailing economy.

A primary concern with the governor’s budget it that it disproportionately cuts services to children, the mentally ill and working families. Cutting 310,000 people from AHCCCS, 47,000 from KidsCare and 17,000 from mental health services is a cost shift to the already broken health care system which will in turn almost necessarily raise rates for services.

We have said time and again that we are willing to come to the table to help negotiate a budget with the governor and share with her some of our ideas. Unfortunately, the governor was not there with us long today for us to ask questions of her or share those ideas.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sen. Rios on the Governor's State of the State Address

Republicans have been in charge for the last 40 years. This devastating economic situation came under their watch and the Republican majority is taking Arizona down the wrong track.

Arizona needs leadership now. We need a Governor who is willing to work with Democrats on a bipartisan solution.

We need to focus on what is important to Arizona families—quality jobs, a better educational system, affordable healthcare and the safety of our families.

And the people of Arizona need to be able to rely on their elected officials to keep their promises. The Governor has not kept her promises.

While stating that we need to create jobs, Governor Brewer and the Republicans have eliminated over 4,000 state jobs and countless more in the private sector.

Last year the Governor promised not to decimate education, but she signed onto one of the largest cuts to education in Arizona history. And, in her speech today, she offered more cuts.

Last year the Governor said she would protect the most vulnerable, but cut vital programs their health care. Today she promised to cut another 300,000 Arizonans from their healthcare.

We need more than the just political rhetoric. We need real leadership and the Republicans and the Governor are not providing it.

Arizonans are demanding better and deserve better.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Arizona State Senate - Schedule for January 11 through January 15, 2010

Arizona State Senate - Schedule for January 11 through January 15, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

12:00 p.m. Floor

1:30 Joint Session (House Floor)
State of the State Address (House Floor)

1:30 p.m. Committee on Judiciary (not meeting)
Upon Adjournment Committee on Natural Resources, Infrastructure and Public Debt
of floor or joint session

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

9:00 a.m. Republican Caucus

10:00 a.m. Democrat Caucus

1:00 p.m. Floor

1:30 p.m. Committee on Appropriations (not meeting)
Committee on Commerce and Economic Development (not meeting)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

9:00 a.m. Committee on Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform (not meeting)
Committee on Public Safety and Human Services

1:00 p.m. Floor

1:30 p.m. Committee on Education Accountability and Reform
Committee on Finance
Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs

Thursday, January 14, 2010

9:00 a.m. Committee on Government Institutions (not meeting)

1:00 p.m. Floor


Friday, January 15, 2010



This schedule is subject to change. Please listen to the floor for committee and floor time announcements. In addition, during various parts of session, COW and Third Read may occur at any floor session. Please watch for floor calendars.]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

REMINDER: Democratic lawmakers invite public to Casa Grande forum

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios and Rep. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny (District 23) invite the public to attend a legislative issue and advocacy forum in Casa Grande tonight.

Democratic lawmakers will discuss the state budget, the legislative process and how the public can make their voices heard.

Casa Grande Legislative Issue and Advocacy Forums
When: Jan. 5, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Villago Middle School, 574 E. Lakeside Parkway, Casa Grande